One-of-a-Kind Talent Show Training Center
Talent shows are recent phenomena in Ethiopia. Even then, most of them are short lived. Yet, one show, Yemaleda Kokeboch, has remained in the business and launched its fourth edition recently. The producer of the show, Medaf Multimedia has further taken an initiative to establish a training centre to train the next generation of artists. EBR’s Hiwot Salelew visited the centre to discuss with its director, students and juries for this report.
Fistum Asfaw, 38, is an Ethiopian film producer and director. In 2010, he directed and produced a movie called Balekelem Hilmoch, a romantic comedy in which famous actors such as Nesanet Workneh and Hiwote Abebe acted on. The Film received a great deal of appreciation from the public. Three years later, Fistum released part two of the film, which again achieved the same acclaim as the first one.
Fitsum used to get many requests from people interested to act in his films. But, he couldn’t provide opportunities for all of them. So, he thought of a way to provide as many chances as possible. It’s this frequent request that convinced him to launch the talent show called Ye-Maleda Kokeboch, in September 2014. The show is broadcasted on Ethiopian Broadcasting Services (EBS-Television). The contestants are expected to perform stories provided by the judges as well as come up with their own stories from real life.
Fistum started the contest to give opportunities to young talents. However, he had a hand from professionals such as playwright and actor Alemayehu Tadesse as a judge. Mahlet Solomon, lecturer at the department of theatrical art under the Entoto Technical and Vocational college is also part of the show as a judge. Helen Bedelu, a graduate of Theatrical Arts from Addis Ababa University and Seyoum Tefera, a seasoned playwright and actor have recently joined Fitsum as judges.
“When Fistum first came and ask me to become a judge in this talent show, I knew it was going to be a huge success because of its far reaching objectives. This is the third season of the show, but we were able to create opportunities for many youth already.” declares Mahlet.
In 2015, Fitsum also produced and directed his third movie, Beches Tedebeke, a movie featuring a man (played by Girum Ermiyas) who got addicted to drug in order to rescue a drug addicted girl (played by Selam Tesfaye) he fell in love with.
The show often starts in September symbolising a new start in the Ethiopian New Near and ends in April where Easter festivity is enjoyed by many. So far each season hosted the performance of close to 800 young talents on average.
Azariyas Tesfaye, the winner of the third round of the talent show in the male’ category, is a graduate of theatrical art from Mekelle University. But, he had to wait for three years to get an opportunity to become an actor. “I was engaged in another work in Hawassa until I joined this talent contest. A year ago, I came to Addis Ababa aspiring to win this show and further my career.” he says. Azariyas already received a few invitations to participate in films.
Just like Azariyas, Zelalem Lema, who came in second place in the third round of the talent show, also got invitations to participate in a movie. “I paid huge sacrifice to join this profession. I had to stop my education to become an actor. My parents were very disappointed when I choose to drop out from Hawassa University where I was studying sociology to fulfil my dream of becoming an actor.” reiterates Zelalem. He believes that the sacrifice was not in vain.
Winning places in the show was also a ticket for professional career for other contestants as well. For instance, winners of the talent show in the first and second rounds, already got the chance to take part in the latest movie by Fistum, entitled ‘Deferet’. In addition, these winners in both sexes also have already got the chances to perform in drama series, feature films and theatres.
Hana Bekele who stood third in the second round sees the widow of opportunity opened wide after the show “After I came third in the second round of the show, I have received many invitations to participate in films and dramas. I have already performed on a feature film called Lastawesish, produced by Kibrom Berhe, which is going to be released soon.” says Hana.
Menale Yaregale, who came in the third place in the second round of the show, experienced the chance of meeting potential people in the sector. “I was able to meet famous artists, producers and directors after the show. I also got an opportunity to partake in a soon-to-be-released TV series called Yetekeberew, which is going to be broadcasted in JTV soon.” added Menale.
There are some who question the significance of talent shows like Yemalda Kokeboch. “These shows are direct copies of talent contests in the third world countries and they do not represent our culture. I do not see their significance in increasing the number of professional artists as most of the contestants do not get much opportunity except some winners.” argues Ayaleneh Mulatu, playwright and critic. Ayaleneh was a lecturer at the Institute of Language Studies, AAU.
The idea of staging talent shows first introduced to Ethiopia by Yishak Getu, who is a music promoter that worked with musicians like Aster Awake, Mahmud Ahmed, Tsegaye Eshetu, Neway Debebe and Tsehaye Yohannes, among others. Yishak came up with the idea of staging a televised music talent show having learned from the American Idol, an American talent show television series launched by Simon Fuller in 2002.
Although many question the success of the Ethiopian idol that was first held in 2004/05 having coverage on the national TV, it helped many to showcase their talent to the general public. In fact Yishak argues that it achieved many of its objectives considering the fact that the talent show is the first of its kind in the country. “After the show many talented individuals such as the thirteen-years-old Hanna Girma, who brought the voice and rhythm of Opera to the contest were able to win the heart and mind of many.” Yishak stresses. “Most of them have released singles and few have done their albums.”
Ashenafi Legesse, who won the first season of Ethiopian Idol, says he started a professional career in music because of the talent show. He has been singing at different night clubs for the past nine years. Ashenafi told EBR that he is preparing to release an album.
Another popular and entertaining talent show contest emerged six year after the Ethiopian Idol ceased, was The Balageru Idol, renamed later as Balageru Mert. The managing director of this show Abreham Wolde, formed an alliance with artists such as Munit Mesfin, Abraham Tesfaye, Sileshi Demissie and Dagmawi Ali. The talent show is mainly on music and dance. Later, Talent shows like Ethio-Talent and Merewa also followed Balageru Mert’s suit. However, they were short lived.
Highlighting the special feature of the Balageru Mirt “Our show is different from other talent shows because the management team train and educate the contestants alongside the show having considered that most of them may never had this kind of opportunity.” says Abreham. “What we were planning to accomplish was not just to showcase the contest and give a winning prize, rather we wanted to produce professional, best musicians and dancers.” asserts Abreham
Balageru Mirt was able to introduce many young artists including Dawit Tsige, winner of the first show. After he won the contest, Dawit has released singles and performed in several concerts. Melat Mengesha who came third in the show has also released singles and made recordings with celebrated singers, Hamelmal Abate, Tsegaye Eshetu and Hailu Fereja.
Stakeholders in this specific area like Dawit Yiferu, the current president of Ethiopian Music Association, question the significance of such talent shows in relation to expanding the music industry. “The contestants in the shows imitate the works of others. Even if they win the contest, they might not be able to release an album.” Dawit is sceptic. He is concerned that these shows may only remain as one time entertainment to the public without contributing to the development of the music industry in the country.
Those who are engaged in producing the talent shows are concerned about other limiting factors towards improving the quality of these shows to meet their intended objectives. Fitsum stresses that “These kinds of talent shows require huge amount of investment and skill.” He emphasises that a lot has to be done in this regard.
YeMaleda Kokeboche training centre is an initiative he established to bridge one of the major shortfalls, skills development. Established with ETB428,243 the centre started admitting students in November 2016. The centre secured its license for training from AATVET Bureau in December 28, 2017, and provides training on acting, producing and directing. It plans to train young talents and equip them with skills in theatre, film, and radio and television drama. 214 students are already receiving trainings in three shifts. The Centre offers six months and one year programmes.
“There are only few winners in [a given] show. As a result, we thought of giving chances for other interested contestants to learn and [develop their skills so that they] participate in films and dramas and win the next competition in films, dramas and theatres.” affirms Fistum.
Rediet Terefe, a student at the training centre explains how the training helps students to fulfil their dreams. “After watching Yemaleda Kokoboche Talent Show, I was sure that the centre will produce professional actors too. It has a welcoming environment and is effective in communicating with the students just as I expected.” she confirms.
Aman Bisetegn, a student of creative writing shares Rediet’s view. “In addition to teaching us about creative writing for a screen play and novels, the centre provides [rare] opportunities of meeting and learning from famous writers in the country.” He also adds, “the direction these writers give [are] guideline for us and they motivate and inspire us very much.”
Having established Medaf Multimedia, Fitsum is now keen to work on Yemaled Kokeboch talent show and the training centre. The family business that is registered in the name of Eskedar Asfaw, Fitsum’s brother, Bogas Multimedia, has been a promotional partner of Medaf Multimedia. EBR
5th Year • July 2017 • No. 52